David Davies: "I've been hacking around with Frontier acting as a SOAP and XML-RPC interface to Filemaker Pro v5. I think it might just work. I know a bit about Frontier but little of SOAP so I'd very much like to link up with some fellow explorers to exchange some ideas."
ZDNet asks if "Netdocs" is Microsoft's killer app for the Two-Way-Web. "According to sources, Netdocs is a single, integrated application that will include a full suite of functions, including e-mail, personal information management, document-authoring tools, digital-media management, and instant messaging." Sounds like Groove and Radio. People pay attention, this Two-Way-Web stuff is for real.
My desktop Web app is coming along well. It has a name now. This is going to blow people's minds. You can take a Web application and run it on the desktop. It's a lot faster, and can be richer and more customizable. The hood-lift is easy and interesting -- make a change in the Web interface, and then flip over to the environment and see how it changed. Most databases don't have a graphic interface. Ours does. Most people have never seen it. Soon they will.
We made a change to My.UserLand service list. Now we only write out services that have changed in the last 24 hours. The service list was getting choked with channels that aren't updating regularly. We also optimized the aggregator so that if a channel hasn't updated in a week, we only check once a day. I also announced this on the Syndication mail list. Hopefully the message will reach all developers who use the service list.
Just heard a great story on NPR about Speed Dating.
Advogato: The Web is the Ultimate Copy Protection.
XML Bastard: Namespaces, Godsend or Demon Seed?
Peeve: RSS channels that point to pages that point to stories.
Nice holiday cards from Micah Alpern, Daniel Ericsson.
Latkes and shicksas
Yesterday I gave a shicksa friend a recipe for potato latkes. Peel and grate some Idaho potatoes. Add an egg, a little grated onion and perhaps a little matzoh meal (or flour if you like). Form them into pancakes and fry (in a pan of course). Serve with applesauce and sour cream, and rich coffee, perhaps a newspaper and smart people for conversation. Yummy!
BTW, dictionary.com defines shiksa as a "disparaging term for a non-Jewish woman." Hmmm. I believe the term can be used neutrally or even lovingly. I've loved quite a few shicksas. One even made fun of herself by deliberately mispronouncing Yiddish words, in a very cute way.
I've gotten pushback on the foreword I wrote for Joel's book. Apparently Tracy Kidder wasn't on the team that developed the computer that the users had problems with. I read the book almost 20 years ago and don't have a copy. If you have a copy, can you find the passage about the surprise that the developers felt when people started using the product?
Speaking of pushback, we occasionally get complaints that our sites are not "accessible." This is a program started by the W3C, and it's really hard to be critical of it without appearing to be unkind to people with disabilities. But it's a harsh requirement, and impossible to achieve given the limits of browsers and people creating websites and the tools we use to create them.
(Our tools are great, but there are limits to what we can accomplish in the normal 18-hour day while managing servers running thousands of free sites and developing new products. People can be so unkind, it's not appreciated.)
Imagine if there was a goal that TV be accessible to blind people. What would that add to the cost of producing a TV program? And what, if in our hearts, we believe it's impossible to create an accessible version of every site we do? The answer is to tell the truth. HTML is a mess, how can we put the genie back in the bottle when it's been out for many years? We can't.
We'd like to support the W3C in everything we do, but we'd also like the W3C to support everything we do, and they don't, so.. Whatever. Have some nice latkes and get on with it.
Talking with Jeff Barr yesterday, I asked if he was a Web developer in 1995 while the W3C was working on HTML 3.0. Yes he was. I asked if he was aware of the HTML 3.0 effort. He wasn't. Neither was I. (Postscript from Tim Bray -- HTML 3.0 was an IETF project. Oy.)
The W3C is the closest thing to a platform vendor in the Web, but they're not nearly as strong as Apple was on the Mac, or Microsoft on Windows, or any other platform I can think of from the past. There's kind of an invisible shield around the W3C that makes them, like the US Supreme Court, impervious to criticism. You don't hear much of that in public, even though it is talked about privately among technologists.
I hesitate to do it myself, even though I think the W3C has gone off the deep-end with RDF, which seems to be a permanent debate on every XML oriented mail list. RDF is a lumpy half-cooked potato, cold and uninteresting, complex but not satisfying. (Ooops, I guess some criticism leaked out.)
Now to me as a product developer, I can't wrap my mind around something I can't use. I just can't do it. The first thing I do, before I consider the problems of file formats and extensibility, I look at what I want to use, then I create something, seek feedback, and iterate towards something that's usable. There's a lot of hard work in that iteration, and imho, until you start doing that you haven't even started to create something. Formats come later, first comes utility.
Anyway, as a larger question, we need a Howto. How to be critical of the W3C without appearing disrespectful? What if I see a major disconnect? What should I do?
In the past I've just developed and published the results of my work. I think it's been of some help to the W3C to have unpatented prior art. With Apple it used to bother me when they'd take over my ideas, but now I've factored that into the plan, I expect to be overridden by the platform vendor. They're slower, so that leaves us a window to get our stuff established while they cross the t's and dot the i's, and get buy-in from the famous technology companies. Then either their stuff is implementable, and we'll support it, or it's not and we'll stick with what works for us.
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